The action comes after the Florida attraction closed last month because of the coronavirus pandemic. About 200 employees who are considered essential will remain on the job.

The planned furloughs of thousands of Disney World workers are expected to begin on April 19.

Credit…Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel, via Associated Press

Walt Disney World in Florida plans to furlough about 43,000 workers after it closed last month because of the coronavirus pandemic, the company and a union coalition representing the workers said.

In mid-March, Disney theme parks worldwide closed, including Disney World in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California.

The furloughs, which are set to begin on April 19, were part of an agreement between Disney World and the Service Trades Council Union, a collection of six unions representing the 43,000 workers at the theme park resort in Florida.

“This is a decision that the union doesn’t like,” Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here Local 362, said on Saturday in a Facebook Live announcement. “However, it’s within the company’s right to lay off and furlough employees in this situation.”

He noted that a furlough generally would have an end date but in this case it does not because of the uncertainties about when the coronavirus crisis will end.

The workers, who are expected to be called back to their jobs, will be able to keep their health benefits during the furlough period. Also, they will not lose their seniority or have their pay reduced, Mr. Clinton said on Sunday. The workers earn $13 to $20 an hour, he said.

The union represents employees, known as cast members, in various jobs, including as theme park attendants, custodians, vacation planners, housekeepers, bus drivers and monorail workers. “Anything service-related,” Mr. Clinton said.

The employees will be immediately eligible to enroll in state unemployment benefits. The company has agreed to provide members who have health care benefits with free health care for a year.

About 200 employees who are considered essential workers will remain on the job, including those in housekeeping, custodial and lake patrol positions.

Walt Disney World, which includes Animal Kingdom, the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot theme parks, employs about 77,000 people, according to the union. Disney World draws an average of more than 52 million visitors a year.

In a statement on Sunday, the company confirmed the furlough agreement with the union.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the Service Trades Council Union that will maintain members’ health insurance benefits coverage, educational support and additional employee assistance programs during a temporary furlough effective April 19,” the statement said.

It was not clear how long the furlough would last or when Disney World would reopen. The company said employees would be able to return to work “when our community recovers from the impact of Covid-19.”

The company has reached similar agreements with other unions that represent security guards, facility workers and musicians who perform at its theme parks, The Associated Press reported.

The company also said it would furlough executive, salaried and hourly nonunion employees whose jobs were not considered essential, The A.P. reported.

It was not clear how many Disney employees in all would be furloughed. A company representative was not immediately available for comment on Sunday.

Estefania Villadiego, who runs some of the attractions at Fantasyland, said she appreciated some of the benefits that she would keep under the agreement.

“It was a relief to know that the union got these amazing agreements and that we are going to keep our health insurance,” Ms. Villadiego, 29, said. She lives with her husband, who is a plumber, and their 10-year-old daughter.

Because her husband is still working and visiting homes, she worries about the coronavirus. As part of the agreement, Disney will pay for coronavirus testing for employees enrolled in the company’s insurance.

“In case something happens, I know that we are protected and we are able to get the tests and treatments necessary,” she said.

The furloughs come amid huge job losses nationwide related to the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused businesses to close and people to stay at home. More than 16 million Americans have lost their jobs amid the outbreak.






  • Updated April 11, 2020

    • When will this end?

      This is a difficult question, because a lot depends on how well the virus is contained. A better question might be: “How will we know when to reopen the country?” In an American Enterprise Institute report, Scott Gottlieb, Caitlin Rivers, Mark B. McClellan, Lauren Silvis and Crystal Watson staked out four goal posts for recovery: Hospitals in the state must be able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization, without resorting to crisis standards of care; the state needs to be able to at least test everyone who has symptoms; the state is able to conduct monitoring of confirmed cases and contacts; and there must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • How does coronavirus spread?

      It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.

    • Is there a vaccine yet?

      No. Clinical trials are underway in the United States, China and Europe. But American officials and pharmaceutical executives have said that a vaccine remains at least 12 to 18 months away.

    • What makes this outbreak so different?

      Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions — not just those with respiratory diseases — particularly hard.

    • What if somebody in my family gets sick?

      If the family member doesn’t need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.

    • Should I stock up on groceries?

      Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

    • Should I pull my money from the markets?

      That’s not a good idea. Even if you’re retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a year’s worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.